As discussed on last report, this November we had a discussion about the challenges of the girls' businesses, the ways to overcome them and what they have learned so far.These are some of the quotes we have from that day.
“I learned bookkeeping, I entered a meeting to save, I play akwao.” Sabella[daily savings practice]
“I learned how to save. Every closing day I keep 2000, take 1000 to eat” Mabel
“Before I was misusing money, now I don´t, I separate it and keep for my business.” Sally
“Now I don´t spend, highest I can take for a day is 500 francs” Jacinta [This is under a dollar a day, and she grew her business at an amazing speed.]
“Bookkeeping helps you know you don´t work in vain, you see the amount you need to continue, you see whether you win or you lose. I can remember everything up to one week, but after if I don´t take note I will forget. At the end of the month you look at it and know you really tried. “
[You have been with us for long, allow us to keep some quotes in the original, but very simple, Pidgin English:]
“Yesterday I don rise. Tomorrow I don fall. Business rise and falls.” Gillian
“Market get one time when profit is huge, other times it depends” Joy
[You got it right?]
“Love the business, no matter what you do. Today you can rise and tomorrow you can fall.” Esther [Not the first time we hear this. They are working in very unstable economic environments! And yet again, this would still be true in any part of the world, that´s just the way business is.]
“It´s not all advice that you should follow. People give you bad advice, particularly those in the same business than you” Priscilia
“Items are expensive, transport is more expensive because of the crisis” Enanga
“During this crisis I make more money, things are more expensive but I also charge more.” Urslar [As you know from our past reports, Anglophone Cameroon is currently under a huge political crisis. - Check out some news.]
“Farming can help you reduce expenditures a lot, when you have your own food” Esther
“Sometimes it´s difficult to be filling the book and if you carry it to the market it will spoil (Marie)”
[Adviced that followed:]
- Put it near the bed, doing it before going to sleep or as you wake up (Priscila)
- Tell the child to remind you every day, as a chore. My own is always reminding me “mommy you did not do your book” (Esther)
“It´s important to have connections so you are informed of prices.”… “I was in the market and just introduced myself to some of the women selling. Now before going to Douala I call to ask the prices, Douala is so big, everybody sells there, you can go out thinking that cocoyams are 4000 and next week it will be 2000, so If you don´t know the prices you will lose money big time.” Prenet [Who is going really big right now!]
After reflecting on the state of their businesses we went on to draw business plans and detailed breakdown of things they would buy with an extra business grant. But before doing that, we set our goals trying something new. We asked everybody to state “the amount of money you need to be fine” that is your ideal monthly income. Girls thought of it for a while and gave different figures ranging from the very modest 50,000 francs a month to 300,000 francs a month. Why did we do this? It´s a goal for them and an indicator for us.
Their goal: From the real figure, they set out what do they need to do to achieve this. How much does their business need to grow? Is that business enough to take you there or do you need to complement eventually with other things? Many took their current business as a step in the ladder, to eventually do something bigger like small-scale professional farming.
Our indicator: International poverty line is not enough for us, either adjusted by real prices or taken as it is, it´s too low for us to be comfortable saying we have achieved what we want when a girl is making more than 1.90 $ a day. We wanted a goal for full poverty removal that was ambitious, and that would not put somebody in a scenario where, after breaking out, would fall back in. So now we have two indicators that we are more comfortable with. The self-determined goal of each girl, and the average desired income (roughly 186.000 francs a month, some 350 dollars, note this is a cheap country to live in, most office clerks don´t earn this kind of amount), and we have set a clear line where you are considered “graduated” from the program. Get that monthly profit or more for 6 months straight (as they say, sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down, those are figures that are not far from what some of our best girls have done and are doing, the problem is having it month after month).
Now.... how are we going to help them achieve this kind of figure without spending too much on a few girls while so many others still need help? Next year we are going to add microloans back into the mix. Independently of the grants we can provide for them, girls will be able to borrow from us bigger amounts of money at any moment, with restrictions based on their background. (They need to have been with us for a while before borrowing, and after they need to start small and repay back successfully before asking for higher amounts).
So that´s where next year is taking us, we have already drawn up the plan and shared it with the girls. Next report, you will get to know more about our plan, their feedback and, of course, what did they do with this grant.
Sometimes we get so excited about what we do that we forget to say thank you. Sorry for that. Before we were about to disburse the loans, we did think of you.
“As you take this money I want you think of one person. She or he is a normal person, like us, who decided to help you out a bit. Every time you grow, she is with you. Every time you fall, she is with you. I want you to think of the person now, and think also every time things don´t go the right way. Any time you think you are alone, any time temptation is coming for you. Because you are never alone, she is with you. And she wants you to succeed.”
Thanks so much for being there, happy new year.
Prenet and her daugther
Writing business plans